Tips for Being Plant-Based in the Dining Commons

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Written by Maggie Green, Dietetic Intern at Vanderbilt and 2020-2022 UGA Dining Nutrition Marketing Intern

A white plate with steamed broccoli, a sweet potato, and a red bell pepper stuffed with quinoa and cheese.

Entering a college dining common with dietary restrictions can be a daunting feeling. I know that's how I once felt as a freshman visiting Bolton for the very first time. Luckily for all the plant-based eaters at UGA, I found there are many options that accommodate all diet choices. I have been vegetarian for five years and have learned many meal “hacks” since first walking into the dining commons three years ago, and I am happy to pass on these ideas.


Here are my favorite tips for making plant-based eating easy in the dining commons!

  1. Always check the Build Your Plate website before coming into the dining commons to see what rotating meals are being served that day and even the whole week. It’s never fun to be wandering aimlessly around the dining commons, so come with a plan in mind.
  3. Check in at the vegetarian station first to see what looks good to you. Even if nothing seems like a complete meal, it can serve as a base to build on.
  5. Spice up your salads by adding nutrient dense items like brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and beans.If you are wanting a salad with high protein to keep you full, tofu can be a great protein source to add. Another option is to add hummus from the deli to your salad as a dressing for added protein.
  7. Use the peanut butter from the bagel station and the bananas from the fruit stand to build a nutrient packed oatmeal for breakfast.
  9. If you are looking for a later breakfast, use the avocado mash from the Mexican stations when they open at lunch and build an avocado toast. Snelling also serves guacamole all day on their waffle topping bar.
  11. Use some toasted whole grain bread and add tomatoes and seasoning for toppings.
  13. For coffee, add almond milk from the cereal station as creamer if you do not want to drink it black.
  15. I always keep an eye out for quinoa being served in the dining commons and use that as a base to throw some veggies on top of for an easy and nourishing way to add protein to lunch or dinner.
  17. Veggie burgers at the grill are a good source of whole grains, vegetables, and protein. I like to pair it with grilled vegetables and potato fries to make a wholesome meal.
  19. Don’t forget about the ultimate plant-based meal: rice and beans. These are always available in all of the dining commons on their vegetarian lines and taste great with added veggies and hot sauce.
  21. Bolton’s Lemon Grass Kitchen always has tofu and veggie options available to build a filling and nutritious Asian-inspired bowl.
  23. If you are craving soup, try adding brown rice and the bean-of-the-day to the soup to make a meal that will keep you fuller for longer and increase both your whole grain and protein amounts.


As you can see, all it takes is a little creativity to continue building new and delicious plant-based meals in the dining commons. I hope this list gives you some inspiration and meal ideas to include in your own diet. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, or trying to eat healthier, I hope you give these tips a try sometime!